Blog: Maurice Walker to Redshirt 2011-12 Season

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Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith announced this week that sophomore forward Maurice Walker will redshirt the 2011-12 season. Walker suffered a right knee injury in the Golden Gophers' game against South Dakota State on Dec. 23, 2010, and underwent surgery a little more than a year ago on Jan. 11.

Coming into this season, Walker and the staff were uncertain about whether or not he would play during his true sophomore year. He continued to rehab his knee, and had worked his way back to near full participation in team practices. Walker even suited up for a handful of games.
Go Gophers! Mo
Go Gophers!
Walker will be a redshirt sophomore in 2012-13.
Go Gophers!

"We were just kind of playing it by ear, day by day, to see how my knee was recovering and how it was doing strength-wise," Walker said. "(The trainers and coaches) just don't feel like it's ready yet. They want to wait until I'm 100 percent before I play again."

Walker, who gave the Gophers quality minutes off the bench last season, would have been nice to have this year, especially with senior forward Trevor Mbakwe out with an ACL tear. Smith said that Walker likely would have been ready for the beginning of Big Ten play had he not suffered a minor setback in rehab during November.

But after being forced to tone down the intensity of his workouts for several weeks back in the beginning of non-conference play, Smith said Walker was not close enough to being ready to play until about this point in the season. Already a third of the way through the conference schedule, Walker and the staff felt it would be, as Smith put it, "a waste of a year to play him."

"It's the best thing to do, and I think he has accepted it well," Smith said. "He's working extremely hard with (strength & conditioning coach) Kevin Kocos and (athletic trainer) Roger Schipper."

As for his knee, Walker said, "It feels good right now, but there are still some strength issues, and still slight pain at times." He has tried to maintain a positive attitude about the rehab process, although it is difficult to just sit and watch. There are times when he wishes he could be on the court, but he has accepted the decision to redshirt.

"I feel like I could help, but there's nothing I can really do about it except for encourage my teammates and try to pick them up," he said.

Mbakwe update: Trevor Mbakwe is also going through the rehab process, for a more recent knee injury suffered in Novemeber. He is enrolled in spring classes and is still cheering on his teammates at games. He has not yet told the coaching staff what he plans to do next year. Mbakwe has the option of petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.

"He probably needs (the petition) done now so he can determine what he needs to do," Smith said.

If a sixth year is granted, Mbakwe will still have time to decide whether he wants to accept it or explore his options of a post-collegiate basketball career.

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